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How to use a headhunter
A headhunter can boost your career - or waste your time. Depending on how you work with him/ her. Here is how to do it right.
Some people are reluctant to use a professional recruiter. This is wrong as a good headhunter has what you don’t have: inside information and the knowledge of jobs before they are even advertised.
Here is how to work successfully with a headhunter:
- Prefer a specialist to a generalist: If you work in finance, find a headhunter that deals with finance people all day long as s/he will have a solid understanding of what you are talking about, what the customer is looking for and how to coach you best.
- Be careful: Do not give out confidential information about you or your employer on the phone without having met the headhunter or knowing which company they work for. There are some black sheep out there that are collecting resumes without a mandate. Also, find out how your headhunter works: if s/he sends out resumes without asking the candidates, I would personally change the headhunter.
- Be rare: Work with maximum 3 headhunters. We will not want to present a candidate who has already been sent by our competitors and you on the other hand will make a desperate impression if this happens.
- Be prepared: Some candidates come late, badly dressed or with an outdated resume to the interview with me and then tell me “Yeah, but that is only because you are the headhunter. I would never do that for the real interview”. This is not how you will motivate us to find you a job. Prepare well, google us, let us meet on eye-level and you will impress us more.
- Be honest: Do not try to hide anything or lie to us as we will probably unmask you. Whenever I find out that a candidate is lying to me (usually with the reasons for leaving or the last salary), I stop the interview and blacklist the candidate. We can talk about anything and if there are bumpy parts in your career, we will sort out how to explain in them to the customer. But we have to know.
- Like us or leave us: If you are not on the same wave length as your headhunter, this will probably be vice versa. I rarely placed someone I did not have a good feeling with. At the end of the day, we are sales people and if we like you, we will have a more convincing sales pitch. If you do not trust or like your recruiter, look for another one and ask him to delete you from his records.
- Use us: A good headhunter will give you feedback on your resume, your presentation as well as a thorough brief on the client including the people you will meet. We know why the job is vacant and what the biggest challenges will be. Normally, we have met your potential boss personally. Maybe we have even met candidates who want to leave the company and we know why. If your headhunter does not give you this information, ask for it.
- Keep in touch: Even successful headhunters place 1 out of 10 candidates they meet. Maybe you will not get the job you applied for – but make sure you get the next one that comes along. Unfortunately we forget good even brilliant, candidates. The biggest lie a (junior or unprofessional)
A good and respectable headhunter can be far more efficient in your job search than you can and has valuable information you don’t have. Bear in mind that we have the same goal: if you get the job, we get the fee. Use us wisely and we can be a catalyst for your job search.
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JobThoughts.net | Career advice from a headhunter
Jorg Stegemann has been working in professional recruitment for the past 10 years, has coached thousands of professionals from entry to C-level and found a new job for approximately 350 candidates. He has held various managerial and corporate functions with two major players in this industry and worked in four countries.
Jorg has his own blog on and publishes one new posting every Monday morning